Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises....On My DVD Player

No, I did not get a boot leg of the new Christopher Nolan installment in the Batman, but I have been watching a lot of Batman while I have some down time before my job gets even busier than it is now.  I have seen a lot of video from the filming of The Dark Knight Rises online as well, with Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and some action shots.  This has put me in the mood to watch any and all Batman I can find.

I have been mainly been watching Batman (The Animated Series).  This show was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and one of the best adaptations of the Batman comic book.  This series helped to create one of the best villains Harley Quinn, who if Heath Ledger had lived and they continued a piece of his story she would have most definitely been in the third Nolan film.  This cartoon also inspired one of the best films in theaters, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Batman's transition from comic book to live action started with the 1966 camptastic adaptation starring Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Burt Ward as Robin/Dick Grayson.  This hilarious (and I believe intentionally funny) television series last for two and a half seasons, and also had a film version.  Between this and the animated series the list of villains who appeared was always entertaining.

Batman1966.jpgIn the animated series Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker voiced the Joker, with a hauntingly evil yet comic twist.  Catwoman was also handled incredibly well in the animated series, and the dual role she played as Selena Kyle.  The animated series did a great job of connecting the characteristics of their villains well from the comic books.  The live action television attracted some big named stars like Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshen, Julie Newmar, Cesar Romero, and even Oscar winners Art Carney and Cliff Robertson.

Batman turned to the silver screen in in 1989 with a live action film starring Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Jack Nicholson as his antagonist Jack Napier/The Joker.  This film was directed by Tim Burton, and was a a wonderfully dark (looks wise) adaptation with a memorable score conducted by Danny Elfman.  Nicholson's Joker was at the time a masterpiece and one of the best portrayals any comic book villain.

After the first film Burton took at a stab at two other Batman villains, in Batman Returns (not an original title) with the Penguin, and Catwoman.  This film was not as good as the first, but was saved mainly by Michelle Pfeiffer's brilliant performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman.  Burton was given complete control of the artistic direction of this film (that is obvious) and its somewhat cartoonish undertone along with lower box office, and conflicts in schedule pushed Burton away from the third Batman film.

The third Batman film, Batman Forever had a new Batman (Val Kilmer) a new director Joel Schumacher, introduced Robin, and had two new villains The Riddler/Edward Nigma (Jim Carrey) and Harvey Dent/Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones).  Carrey (even though incredibly cartoonish) was a great choice for The Riddler.  I felt like I was watching one big explosion of neon while watching this film, but nothing could have prepared me for the terror/camp of the fourth and final Batman (in this series).

Batman and Robin, what can I say?  Joel Schumacher laughably focused on rubber nipples, cod pieces, and butts in the opening sequence of his film, nuff said!  George Clooney seemed to be  a good pick for Bruce Wayne, but as Batman he was terrible!  Schumacher ruined Bane, used Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the intelligent Mr. Freeze, and started Uma Thurman's over acting as Poison Ivy.  This film is hard to watch unless I knowingly want to laugh at how bad this film was.

batman+and+robin.jpgI will say Burton was better at creating strong roles for women, that were capable (both the girlfriend to Bruce and the villain).  Kim Basinger's Vicky Vale was confident and strong, and like I said above Michelle Pfeiffer was dynamite.  Schumacher turned the woman of Batman into boring characters.  Nicole Kidman's therapist Dr. Chase Meridian was silly.  Schumacher made a laughable Batgirl out of Alicia Silverstone and ignored the history of Batgirl being Barbara Gordon; he also had Elle McPherson play Bruce's fiance and she barely spoke and was just there to be eye candy.  Schumacher took down this series quicker the sinking of the Titanic in ironically 1997 the year Titanic was released.

The eight years later like a phoenix from the ashes, Christopher brought Batman back to life with the film Batman Begins.  Batman Begins took Batman back to his origin.  Nolan was smart enough to realize that the audience wants to see the birth of the hero (this caused a huge trend in super hero films).  After Nolan introduced this concept several other films followed suit, and did not just start the super hero story in the middle.  After watching Batman Begins tonight, I can definitively state that Chris Nolan is a genius and has created two masterpieces centered around the caped crusader.  The second film The Dark Knight kept the majority of the cast (replacing the awful Katie Holmes) and of course helped birth the Academy Award winning role for Heath Ledger as The Joker.  Nolan knows how to weave realism with  comic lore.  I am excited for the Dark Knight Rises but Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman has me scared.  I hope to talk amore about Nolan's Batman as the film's release comes closer, but I trust Nolan will close his trilogy without using up one of his nine lives.

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